“The question is, ‘How might we radically change our P-12 schooling systems so that marginalized student groups will not be dependent on charity and at an educational disadvantage during a crisis of this magnitude in the future?’” wrote Stephanie Hawley, Chief Equity Officer at Austin Independent School District, in “Convergence in the Crisis: Educational Equity and Social Justice.” It is a piece in which Hawley gives her insights on recommended steps for leading multi-system change and equity progress as well as questions to re-imagine schools.
Certainly, we must consider short-term solutions and help spread the word about food pickup and other pieces of important info for families in our area, but we also must start thinking about what changes need to be made longterm. I know we are all swamped, anxious, and dealing with a lot, but if we don't start pushing back against short term inequitable solutions, they could become longterm. And if we don't start seeking longterm solutions, then we're missing a real opportunity to disrupt the systems that are already being disrupted. Our administrators, central offices, technology leaders, and more in our districts are looking for solutions right now. Let's help guide that conversation and those solutions towards equitable outcomes. If we are advocating for inequities in our library's, school's, or district's during "normal" times, then we have to try when and how we can to continue to do so now. There are inequities that are becoming apparent to previous naysayers. Here in a Tweet from Dr. Rosa Perez-Isiah asks a key question:
What will we do about it?
Other Questions to Consider
During our roll outs of emergency remote learning are people taking equity concerns into account? (I saw teacher Julie Jee refer to the education that schools are currently trying to facilitate as emergency remote learning on Twitter. This felt like an accurate description of what is taking place. I will use that phrasing in this piece.)
Are students in need being provided meals? Does everyone that need that information have it? How is that information being sent out? What is being done for students without internet? For students with IEPs? For ELL students whose parents speak another language primarily? - How can you help? What resources can we curate and share? What can you spread the word on and how?
What inequities has this brought to light about your specific school or district? How can you advocate to not just temporarily change them but also permanently? Who can you have conversations with? What if you tried stretching your sphere of influence a bit further?
What language are you using when you discuss COVID 19? Are you stepping in and up when/if you hear others using xenophobic or racist language?
We have all had an onslaught of offerings temporary, permanent, upgrades, new resources, etc. from various educational companies. After having some conversations with some fellow school librarians in my state, these some of the considerations to take into account:
Digital Learning Day (DLDay) was launched by the Alliance for Excellent Education as an effort to spread innovative teaching practices and help young people everywhere access high-quality digital learning opportunities. Started in 2012 as a grassroots effort, DLDay has grown to be a nationwide celebration, empowering educators to enhance student learning with digital tools into the classroom. This year’s Digital Learning Day is being celebrated today, and is all about sparking innovation in every classroom, every day. As part of this year’s celebration Google’s Applied Digital Skills is excited to launch a new Digital Learning Day collection. This curated a collection of lessons allows students to explore new digital skills for their life and future career and includes lessons on creating a resume, exploring their digital footprint, creating a presentation about a topic and more!
Applied Digital Skills is a free, video-based curriculum that teaches students the practical skills that they need for work and life. Each lesson has teacher materials including lesson plans, sample rubrics, and certificates of completion for students. Videos are also available to download for offline viewing.
Try a lesson in the new Digital Learning Day Collections today.
Applied Digital Skills includes collections for College Readiness, Job Preparedness and Career Exploration to teach students skills that prepare them for two and four year colleges, and possibly for internships/apprenticeships and other types of education opportunities.
Join the Digital Learning Day celebration on February 27 by:
By Yvonne Melton, CS & Digital Skills Education Program Manager
Yvonne Melton manages partnerships on Google's Computer Science and Digital Skills Education Team, whose mission is to support educators across the country and expand equitable access to CS and digital skills learning opportunities to youth and adults.
Establishing Identity Affirming Library Spaces & Doing Self Work: Interview with Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera
Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for Hamilton Southeastern Schools. She has also served as an elementary teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and a director of curriculum prior to this role. During her doctoral program, she specialized in culturally responsive, inclusive environments and identity validation. She has penned multiple published articles including these two that I will reference in some of the questions: Shifting Toward Equity: The Educator’s Role and Identity-Affirming Schools Need Race Conscious Educators. On Twitter she is @ericabrivera.
conditioned to process differences and the idea of inclusion in various ways. It is important to reflect on that conditioning process, how it has impacted our decision-making and social contexts, and the ways it has shaped our beliefs.
Equity is the concept of giving individuals what is needed for their success and survival, which requires us to understand identities of those we serve as well as the barriers that hinder achievement. However, before we can delve deep into unpacking the needs of others, we have to learn how to decenter ourselves. Equity work involves an ongoing examination of self. I believe in the power of critical questions which guide steps toward educational excellence. For teacher librarians, it may be helpful to ponder some of the following questions:
It’s difficult to counter the biases of others if we do not recognize the biases we harbor within ourselves. Therefore, I continuously tell educators to start with self-work in efforts to avoid action steps that involve doing things to people without fully understanding the needs that exist.
I had the privilege to hear you talk at ISLA about what identify safe spaces look like in a classroom with having cultural connectivity, identity affirmations, intentional spaces, personal touches, and authenticity and examples of those. How do you see that translating in the space of a library? What might stay the same or change in that environment?
Guest post written by:
- Meg Boisseau Allison (she/her), U-32 Middle & High School, Montpelier, VT (@meg_allison)
- Peter Langella (he/him), Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg, VT (@PeterLangella)
We believe, at its core, that a library should be centered around providing equitable access to information and the wealth of knowledge within. Not only do we ensure that our physical buildings allow for differently abled people to access our spaces, but we believe obstacles are also invisible and must be interrogated, including our policies, practices, and programming, as well as the implicit biases and/or privileges embodied within those working in the library from directors to instructional designers, library assistants, and volunteers.
We believe, at its core, that the art of librarianship is centered on building relationships that enlarge our students, our communities, and our own capacities for empathy. We do this through stories and books that, as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop explores, become “windows, mirrors, and sliding doors” for our readers, and as Uma Krishnaswami posits, prisms. Librarians know this intuitively, and it is confirmed by brain research: stories build neural pathways that make us kinder (and smarter!). No one says it better than author and current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reyonds, “You read my books, you know my life, you know my secrets. We are connected.”
In addition, we build relationships by creating bridges toward understanding by cultivating spaces for dialogue and for questions. We do this by creating safe spaces - we think of them as pockets - for our students, but especially those who are marginalized, traumatized, or struggle with belonging within the larger community, to find a nest within our shelves, sometimes literally. One of Meg’s students recently offered this perspective:
During middle school I hid behind shelves. It was a bit difficult to do; the shelves at the U-32 library are too short to do anything more than kneel without your head peeking above the top. These shelves weren’t made to hide anything; the open spread of the tables and the wide windows make it impossible to hide; the bright lights make it so we can see each other and everyone else walking around in the library. Libraries allow all of us to be seen. In book groups and conversations by the shelves, we share our minds with each other, see each other in a new way. Libraries create a temporary world in which we can rediscover ourselves and each other.
The purpose of the ISTE Librarians Network is to promote librarians as leaders and champions of educational technology and digital literacy. The key mission is to provide a professional learning community where librarians can leverage technology knowledge and expertise to improve school library programs, increase access to information, and foster strong teaching and learning environments in a connected world.